Our Author to the Rescue …! Le Chevalier des Dames du Dolent Fortuné
This absurd – surprising! – image shows a clerkly figure riding across a stylised landscape on … what? The figure, it turns out, is our author, the poet known only as Dolent Fortuné; dreaming, he is woken, told to arm himself with ink and parchment, and allow a white greyhound (of all things) to carry him off to a place where he is to witness and record everything he hears and sees. When he arrives hotfoot on his hound, he finds Noblesse Feminine under attack from Male Bouche and Cœur Vilain. The heroic Noble Cœur triumphs against them – and Dame Nature, vehement defender of women, explains that God created man and woman equal, and of equal virtue: those who malign women are therefore are defying God’s will.
This little – and little-known – verse romance, just 5000 lines or so, was written in the fifteenth century, before 1477, and is, of course, an off-shoot of the Querelle de la Rose, the fifteenth-century literary controversy sparked by Jean de Meun’s section of the Roman de la Rose and which pitted some, notably Christine de Pizan, who saw it as blasphemous in its treatment of women, against others unstinting in their admiration of its literary qualities. This touching story of ours inspired suites of miniatures in two of its six surviving manuscripts, and in its first printed edition in Metz in 1516. This image, from a manuscript in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, shows a dutiful miniaturist doggedly (!) attempting here as elsewhere to replicate in paint the details of his source – hence no doubt the absurdly magnified hound and the poet, miniaturised, right down to the little sheaf of blank parchment and the ink bottle clutched in his left hand.
The text is edited by Jean Miquet, “Le Chevalier des dames” du Dolent Fortuné, allégorie en vers de la fin du XVe siècle. Ottawa, 1990.
Phillips, Helen. “Rewriting the Fall: Julian of Norwich and the Chevalier des dames.” Lesley Smith and Jane H.M. Taylor (eds.), Women, the Book and the Godly. Cambridge: Boydell and Brewer, 1995, 149-156.
Taylor, Jane H.M. ‘Le Chevalier des dames du Dolent Fortuné: image and text, manuscript and print’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 81 (1999), 153-176
Le Chevalier des dames de Dolent Fortuné [Lorraine, France] [ca. 1477]. New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M 344, fol. 3r. Reproduced by permission of The Morgan Library & Museum.